By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 3, 2012 at 1:26PM
While "Luck" took a bad turn for HBO, the cabler is cheering the numbers on "Game of Thrones." The eagerly anticipated second season opener broke the series record for viewers: 3.86 million tuned in, beating last season's June finale (3.04 million), per Nielsen estimates.
There's an embarrassment of riches for smart TV watchers right now, as AMC's "Mad Men" aired a new installment Sunday night (2.94 million viewers), the cabler's "The Killing" returned for its second season debut (1.80 million) and Showtime's "Shameless" second-season finale mustered 1.45 million.
But HBO's "Game of Thrones" handily beat all comers. (Here's TOH's review and intro to George R.R. Martin's densely populated fantasy world of rival kings, queens, princes and fiefdoms as well as dragons and shadowy otherworldly threats.)
It looks like "Thrones" could become HBO's most popular series after violent vampire saga "True Blood" (which routinely grabs 5 million viewers). Last December the season two debut of "Boardwalk Empire" pulled 3 million viewers. "Luck" did not do so well (never getting past the 600,000 mark for Sunday airings) and was axed by HBO after three race horses died and raised a PETA-fueled media furor. (Here's our review of the finale.)
How will "Girls," Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham's frankly sexy comedy about a 20ish Manhattan trio do when it premieres at 10 pm on April 15? (SXSW Q & A with them is here.) That is the next question.
[More "Game of Thrones" numbers at Variety.]